In the Beech Forest
Gary Crew and Den Scheer
Ford St Publishing, $29.95
In the Beech Forest is an unusual book. It’s a large picture book but it’s not really for small children. The language is rich and complex and the pictures include several grotesque monsters sketched in black and white.
The story begins with a boy walking through a forest seeking imaginary monsters to slay with his toy sword. However, the shifting “withered leaves” and lengthening “grey shadows” remind him of the computer games he played and he becomes nervous.
For several pages the words on the left hand page belie the pictures on the right hand page. These words speak of his thoughts and his journey. He constantly reassures himself.
The pictures show monsters with bulging muscles and long noses, bare trees with long thin branches and roots, and fierce looking maidens.
The book has a strong element of ancient religions. The boy thinks of runes, the pulse of the earth and renewal after being with nature. He finds the forest a good and powerful place “beyond imagining” and not dark and fearful like the forces of his computer games.
When he leaves the forest, he is taller and pictures of the forest are now predominantly red. He also leaves his toy sword to be swallowed up by the roots of a tree.
If you are looking for a wholesome book for little children, this is not it. The pictures would probably give them nightmares. However, for all that, it is a beautifully written and cleverly drawn book.